AMONG THE FALLEN: Release Date 10/8/19 Back To Top

"A Dickensian #MeToo novel"  KIRKUS Review
***** 5 Star review Canadian Review of Materials: "sophisticated, compelling and troubling"

DICKENS BLOG:  "Major kudos to Schwartz for writing it and researching it so well." (4/20)

The Dickens Fellowship, Broadstairs, England: Click Here

HC: 13:9780823441020
E-book: 10:0823441024
*NEW: PB 1/23: -13 978-0823451098

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Link to Amazon: Click Here
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Link to PRH Canada: Click Here

A teenager in a Victorian prison, charged with infanticide and prostitution, accepts an offer from Charles Dickens to reinvent herself much like one of his characters.

The Story:

Sixteen-year-old Orpha, termed a “fallen woman”, will soon be released from prison. But she has nowhere to go in a Victorian society that has rejected her. So she considers an invitation from a man who, unknown to her, happens to be the famous Charles Dickens, and soon finds refuge in his project at Urania Cottage, a social experiment of the period, not well known to modern readers and admirers of Dickens. Once there, Orpha battles her own demons as does Dickens in this historical fiction novel about entrapment, resilience and reinvention.

Told in first person episodic narrative interspersed with Dickens’ journals, Orpha says she wants only to survive. Her sentence in a Victorian prison, Tothill, ends soon. But where can she go in 1857? Ostracized by both family and society for being a “fallen woman”, in mourning for her father, enraged at her torturer Luther, plagued by violent fits and poverty, there are only the streets where a downward spiral is ensured.

 But then she meets Mr. Dickens who offers shelter, education and family at Urania Cottage, a Home for Fallen Women, established by the wealthy benefactress Burdett Coutts and overseen by Dickens. When she discovers that Dickens is not only the admired Boz, but a famous writer, she soon guesses that Urania’s girls are his prototype for creating realistic female characters like Nell and Little Dorritt; they, in turn, have already inspired Dickens to use the suffering of his own childhood to create the autobiographical David Copperfield. Orpha apprentices herself to Dickens in hopes of becoming a writer.

What’s real and what’s not in this novel? Actual people like Dickens and his circle, his mistress, Urania and its matron (“Charles Dickens and The House of Fallen Women”, Jenny Hartley), the burning of Dickens’s letters, Dickens’s known whereabouts, and his letter to fallen women. Dickens’s journal entries contain actual quotes mingled with fiction. Although Orpha herself is fictional, the circumstances and settings explored are not. Based on extensive research into Dicken’s letters and novels, the settings of Urania, London and Tothill, this historical fiction novel is an imagining of the magical transformation of damaged girls that Dickens hoped for in his “virgin charges” during his twelve year commitment to Urania.

Nominated for Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction 2020
Notable Social studies Trade for Young People 2020
Rise YA Feminist Book Project List 2020


"AMONG THE FALLEN is a well-told, realistic novel of Urania Cottage, founded by Charles Dickens and Miss Burdett-Coutts in 1847. The reader experiences the struggles of the "fallen women" and the charitable work and support given to those who willingly participated in the unique opportunity at the Urania Cottage. This work is a great introduction to one of the many social ills addressed in the novels of Charles Dickens and certainly applicable to today's world. Written for older teens, this novel can be enjoyed by all. I would highly recommend AMONG THE FALLEN". --- President, The Dickens Fellowship of New York.


11/2/19 BOOKTALK @ Bayside Public Library 1pm
12/7/19 WRITING WORKSHOP @ North Presbyterian Church, Flushing, NY, 1pm
6/5/20 ZOOM Presentation for Dickens Fellowship, NYC, 2pm

Holiday House Publisher Hardcover ISBN# 0-8234-1484-1
Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd. Paperback ISBN# 1-55005-140-7


“If-a you can’t come,
If-a you can’t come, Lord,
Send–a one angel down.
Send him on a rainbow,
Send him in a glory,
Send him in a hurry, Lord,
If-a you can’t come.”

Abram knows only slavery, but from the moment he holds his baby cousin in his arms, he is determined to protect her from the harsh realities of life on the plantation. As she grows, however, Eliza cannot escape notice. Her fair skin and blue eyes invite the hatred of the master's daughters, and the young slave's fate seems all but assured. Abram knows that freedom appears impossible, but somewhere - through the scorching heat and the overseer's whip - lies hope.

A young slave tries to hide the horrors of slavery from his younger cousin, a light-skinned slave who is the daughter of the plantation owner.

Historical Fiction. Ages 12 and up

REVIEWS (Send One Angel Down)

“This haunting novel is based on the true story of a beautiful and spirited slave girl, and the boy who grows up trying to protect her. It gives particular attention to an aspect not much written about for young readers--the shame and anguish surrounding the practice of breeding slaves for profit. From the beginning, Abram, though only "a bone of a boy," steps powerfully off the page as genuine flesh and blood and heart. Utilizing extensive research of authentic slave voice, the author has attempted to show how it might have felt to be a slave. The resulting language is rich and evocative of time and place, of joy and suffering, and of real people. It would be an especially involving book to read aloud to students--the drama of its compelling story blends with the rhythm of its soulful music. The result is a hopeful, moving, and not-to-be-forgotten narrative. “
Children's Literature

“… a compelling first novel, (Schwartz writes) passionately of the privations and cruelties of the old South, and of the love and loyalty of the slaves for one another.”

“This valuable fictionalized account is based on the reminiscence of Doc Daniel Dowdy, a former slave interviewed for the Federal Writers' Project in the 1930s … who chose to tell the government interviewer about his beloved cousin, Eliza. When teamed with books on the abolition movement, the Civil War, and Reconstruction, Eliza's story will aid young readers in visualizing this important but often misunderstood period in American history.”

“….amazing, powerfull and painful novel.
Schwartz has created a passionate polemic of life in the Old South, one that simply resonates with emotion contrasting the privations and cruelties of the white owners with the love and attachment that the slaves had for each other. Schwartz uses an unusual motif very effectively to convey the soul of slave society – their music. The slaves sang everywhere, burying their emotion in their songs as they worked in the cotton fields, churning butter, at births and funerals, and of course leaving us all with an enduring and wonderful legacy.
… a must purchase and a must share for any schools which feature Black history as part of their curriculum.
Highly Recommended.”
Canadian Materials

“The strength of this novel lies in its clear portrayal of slavery.
Pair this story with Lester's To Be a Slave (Dial, 1998) and Alice McGill's Miles' Song (Houghton, 2000), which also describe the horrors of slavery. It will give students a good sense of what it really was like "to be a slave."
School Library Journal


2000 Parents Choice Gold Award for Fiction
2001 Notable Book for a Global Society
2001 American Library Association Best Book for YA
2001 Voice of Young Adults’ Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Readers
2001 Books for the Teenage, NYC Public Library
2001 Children’s Literature Choice List
Shortlisted : 2002 Charlotte Award of NY State, 2002 Iowa Teen Award, 2002 South Carolina YA Book Award, 2002 Maine Student Book Award, 2002 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan Award, 2003 Georgia Children’s Literature Awards, 2003 Garden State Teen Awards & 2002 Mustang Book Award
Featured in an exhibition of Award-Winning Children’s Books (1997-2002) at 2003 Book Expo America, sponsored by The Children’s Book Council
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Fitzhenry and Whteside Ltd. Hardcover 0-7737-3302-7
Paperback 0-7737-6192-6


If I Just Had 2 Wings - Red Cedar Speech

“That’s how it comes to you at first … in dreams.”

In her dreams, Phoebe twirls through rows of sea island cotton as a white dress blows around her knees like a breeze. As she dances, she loses all memory of being born a slave on an Alabama plantation. She lifts up her feet and flies high above the fields, as light as air. Before her a single white star shines.

Thirteen-year-old Phoebe has always dreamed of leaving her life as a slave behind. She has heard whispers about a secret path to freedom, and she has seen what can happen to those who take it and fail. But freedom means more to Phoebe than anything, and when she meets Liney, a strong young woman who picks cotton next to her, they form a plan to escape together.

One night, Phoebe, Liney, and Liney's two small children flee under cover of darkness. Following clues from the songs and stories they have heard, the runaways elude slave catchers and reach the first stop on the Underground Railroad. It is only one safe house in a chain that leads all the way north to Canada. But between them and freedom, lie miles and miles of unfriendly country and dangers too horrible to imagine.

In 1861, thirteen-year-old Phoebe runs away from her master's Alabama plantation and joins four other slaves as they journey to Canada on the Underground Railroad.

Historical Fiction. Grades 4-9


“Short, staccato sentences capture the frenzy and the fatigue, while longer ones flow like poetry. Readers will learn about the risky operation of safe houses and other secrets of the Underground Railroad. They'll experience the value of friendship, the dangers of escape and the reasons for running. By the end of this stirring tale, they will also savor Old Willie's definition of freedom—"laying your head down at night, knowing the next day is yours."
Children’s Literature

“… a novel filled with adventure and romance. Though many books have been written about escapes from slavery along the Underground Railroad, few read as grippingly or beautifully as this one … The best all-around new novel I’ve read this year.”

“Moving and suspenseful, it is also well researched and historically accurate. This novel would appeal to any teen with an interest in social history and human rights.”

“A powerful read, and difficult to put down. Confident middle-school readers will love the thrilling way history is brought to life. And teachers, looking to augment their lesson plans, should give this a look, too!”

“… a nice job of integrating historic fact into her deeply felt story, as well as a sensitive appreciation of the role of music in slave culture … This story, like Schwartz’s first novel, Send One Angel Down, is a passionate, often stirring account of the human spirit’s capacity to endure and triumph.”

“Full of details of the Underground Railroad, with actual names of conductors and stations and fascinating background on the many secret signals and songs, this is a well-written and exciting story that will appeal to fans of historical fiction and find a place in middle-school American history classrooms. Schwartz, an elementary school teacher, grew up in southern Ontario, where many of the slaves who escaped on the Underground Railroad settled. An author's note at the end talks about her research and her inspiration for the novel.

“Young readers who often take their freedom for granted get a glimpse of a difficult historical era in this well-researched and carefully documented novel.”
Canadian Materials

“…a solid reading experience.”


2002 Winner Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction
2002 Winner Ontario Silver Birch Fiction Award
2003 Winner Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award
2004 Winner British Columbia Red Cedar Award
2004 Books for the Teen Age, NYC Public Library
2002 Canadian Children Book Centre’s Our Choice 2002 YA Canadian Book Award Finalist
2003 Rocky Mountain Book Award Finalist
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Holiday House Publisher Hardcover 0-8234-1716-6
Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd. Paperback 1-55041-946-3


“For that time, no one has words. Those days were like whispers.
The world had come to a stop.”

Born only a week after the tragic death of her father, Frances Chopp grows up believing that she was sent to earth as her father’s messenger to pull her mother out of her grief. And in the years that follow, Frances tries to make sense of the hard times that have struck her immigrant family, even as she struggles to understand the puzzle of her family’s past. Set in the mining and steel towns of Southern Ontario in the years between the wars, Messenger is a moving story of familial love and the determination to survive.

Based on the lives of the author's mother and grandmother, tells the story of a widowed Croatian immigrant trying to keep her family together in the mining towns of Ontario in the 1920s and 1930s.

Historical Fiction Ages 12 and up


“ … strongly atmospheric, with its evocations of communication between the living and the dead, the mother's battle between despair and survival, and distinctive Croatian customs and superstitions.”
Publishers Weekly

“ … Within this spare plot are woven numerous threads that encompass much that people experience in life. The young family works hard to survive on the outskirts of a coal mining town in northern Ontario, Canada. But the father is killed in a mining accident and two weeks later the young mother delivers her third child at the beginning of a bleak winter. The elegant and evocative writing draw us into the story as the new arrival, a baby girl, becomes a synonym for the legacy of hope and perseverance bestowed by the father. She is his "messenger." The narrative successfully evokes the harsh reality of frontier life, underscoring how fragile life can be. The counterbalance of a resilient family facing challenges and overcoming them again and again with a combination of help from other family members and hard work is inspirational. This book would serve any classroom well as a finely crafted story as well as a study on immigrants and frontier life in Canada.”
Children's Literature

“This novel takes place predominantly in Canada's coal-mining territory and ends at the beginning of World War II. Frances begins her story in 1923, when her father died in a mining accident and she was born, and narrates it in chapters divided by milestones in her Croatian family's life. Descriptions are rich. Accurate historical references describing transportation, housekeeping, current events, and daily living set the story firmly in the first half of the 20th century. Schwartz's novel emphasizes the joys of a closely knit family, no matter what their economic status.”
School Library Journal

“ …lyrically written tale of a growing clan of Croatian immigrants struggling to get by in Depression-era Canada. Rich in emotional nuance, Frances's account is weighted with a sense of loss, yes, but also laced with dreams, visions (even, once, an angel's visitation), epiphanies and, after 16 years of sorrow, the prospect of a new and brighter future. Readers will be rewarded with an affecting tale of hardships overcome.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Captivating and poignant …”

“ …moving coming-of-age story. The lyrical writing infuses the bleak landscape and conditions with a magical element. Poetic images abound… Highly Recommended.”
Canadian Materials


2002 Books for the Teen Age, NYC Public Library
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Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd. Hardcover 1-55005-053-2
Paperback 1-55005-054-0


“I am prey, caught in a spider's web. Every time the spider creeps, he makes me whirl around and around. My life is spinning without me. I cling to the web with my hands and feet. I look for a place to leap.”

Nana's future is certain, and she dreads it. Daughter of a proud Kwakiutl chief, she will become a weaver, marry the son of a chief from another tribe, and leave her beloved home forever. Nanolatch, Nana's twin brother, will be chief one day, and he welcomes it. He will be a warrior and a strong leader, just like his father. Together, the twins will enter their initiation to adulthood, and fulfill the roles that have been determined for them since the day they were born.

But when the chief leads a warring party to destroy another tribe's village and capture a slave, the fortunes of the Kwakiutl tribe begin to turn. Convinced that they must make amends, the chief casts about for a way to undo the curse that has descended on their people.

The young slave, Noh, has been mute since the day she was torn from her village. Daughter of a shaman, she has already seen visions of the twins. Only gradually does she understand that her own emergence as a shaman is inextricably linked with the twins and their approaching initiation. Through her sympathy for Nana and her growing love for Nanolatch, she understands that she must help them fulfill their true destiny. But can she save them, knowing that it will take a terrible sacrifice to restore them all to their rightful place?

Set on the West Coast of North America during the fifteenth century, Initiation is a powerful story of a proud tribe, the Spirit World that guides them, and the universal struggle of three extraordinary young people on the brink of adulthood.

Historical Fiction. Ages 12 and up.


“Grounded in the myths and legends of the Northwest Indians, Schwartz's story contains lots of details of daily life infused with reverence for the natural world. There is so little available for readers interested in seeing the world from the perspective of Native peoples before Columbus that where curriculum dictates, it may prove useful.”
School Library Journal

Well researched, the novel transmits a powerful sense of ancient native culture and values and an understanding of aboriginal life before European contact. The award winning author of If I Just Had Two Wings, Virginia Frances Schwartz evokes a strong reverence for the natural world and makes a plea for conservation to save the endangered migrating salmon.
“Three remarkable protagonists on the threshold of maturity who question the traditional roles their society expected them to fulfill. Highly recommended.”

“… compelling, a haunting coming-of-age story that blends history and myth in ways that will engage a range of readers.”

“”This is an absorbing portrait of a period in North American history about which little is known … draws attention to the chasm that can open up between private desires and impersonal necessity.”

“… lyrical, concrete and sensual in a way that evokes the salty, watery life of B.C.’s coast and conveys ividly the longings of her characters …. Plays beautifully with the metaphor of female transformation, of a freedom that comes from joining the animal world … there’s something potent and haunting about this imagining.”

"Beautiful language and a strong sense of place
and history combine to make Initiation a vivid and memorable book. Grounded in pre-contact Kwakiutl culture, this powerful novel centres on three young people whose passage into adulthood will change the fate of their tribe." Schwartz has crafted a superb fantasy novel, resonant with the strength of myth and timeless in its examination of the human heart."
SUNBURST Speculative Fiction

"This novel, aimed at a young-adult audience,
is a gripping coming-of-age story,
based on a Kwakiutl myth about the salmon. The
book not only tells a great story, it may also inspire
a deeper understanding of the First Nations peoples of
northwest British Columbia — and respect for the
KYRIAMA International Prize


2004 Notable Book, Kuriyama International Prize
2005 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award Finalist
2005 Willow Award Finalist
2006 Stellar Book Award for Teens Finalist
2006 Rocky Mountain Book Award Finalist
2004 Canadian Library Association Book of the Year Award Finalist
2004 Sunburst Award for Speculative Fiction Finalist
2003 White Raven Selection at the International Youth Library in Munich
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4 KIDS in 5E & 1 CRAZY YEAR Back To Top
Holiday House Publisher Hardcover 0-8234-1946-3
Scholastic Canada Ltd. (available only in Canada) -
Paperback 0-439-93568-5
Also available Scholastic Book Clubs US
4 KIDS in 5E & 1 CRAZY YEAR Podcast: Listen Now


“Writers aim their words deep into the reader’s heart like arrows.”

Family, school, and life in general are seen through the writings of four fifth graders who have been taken out of an overcrowded New York City classroom and placed with a teacher who shows them how to write and how to believe in themselves.

Told in four voices, this heartfelt and sometimes hilarious story chronicles the ups and downs of a unique group of city kids as they learn to cope with their complicated lives.
Contemporary Fiction. Grades 4-6

REVIEWS (4 Kids)

“An inspiration to writing teachers and to those who struggle with life or literacy.”

“ …a well written novel about the writing process. It follows in the tradition of other books which discuss a writer's struggles to put words to paper. Schwartz has left us with a powerful message about the power of education to transform individuals. This book should be required reading for all teachers of young children! However, at the same time, it is also a marvelous read for students! Highly Recommended.”

“This book, although fiction, is written to reflect the experiences of the author as a teacher in a crowded New York City school. The theme is a beautiful one as the story unfolds and the young students blossom and bloom, opening up like flowers in the spring when a new teacher encourages them, not just to read, but also to write. They are given positive reinforcement and begin to feel free to write about what they see, what they feel, and what they remember.”

“… a promising motivational book for reluctant readers and writers.”
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Scholastic Paperback. Historical Fiction
ISBN 978-0-545-98978-7 PB, Ages 9-12
Crossing To Freedom Podcast: Listen Now


Nominated For The Silver Birch Award 2011-2012

Winner of the 2011 IODE Violet Downey Book Award
Children's Choice STARRED Selection
Selection 2011-2012 French Canadian Best Books for Kids & Teens List


Eleven-year-old Solomon is a fugitive slave on a dangerous journey north to Canada, and to freedom. His young life has seen many losses: his mother was sold in a slave auction when he was a baby; his father escaped from the plantation and hasn’t been seen in five years; and now his grandfather, who has been injured during the last leg of their journey to freedom, and is forced to stay behind.

Solomon continues with their group leader, but his feelings of loss and isolation haunt him, as he attempts to forge a new home in Canada.

It soon becomes apparent that racial prejudices know no borders, and while Solomon works hard and begins to experience some newfound freedoms, he faces discrimination and segregation and lives with the ongoing fear of being caught by slavecatchers and dragged back to the South.

With all of these barriers facing him, Solomon must find the strength — the same strength that brought him north, the same strength that gives him hope of finding his father — to persevere and understand the true meaning of freedom.

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Nutz Back To Top
by Virginia Frances Schwartz
Illustrated by Christina Leist
978-1-896580-87-6 · pb


Narrated by a fat half-Persian half-alley cat called Amos, this very funny chapter book will delight young readers. When and injured baby squirrel moves into Amos' already crowded household, everything turns topsy-turvy. Ten year old Tyler wants to keep the squirrel, but Amos knows wild things will wreak havoc on his already stressed-out family. This charming novel is populated with an eccentric cast of colourful characters.

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